A massive build-up of illegal waste, resting on what was once arable farmland, is being cleared by authorities in northern China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region after years of wanton dumping – the result of a state television exposé aired as Beijing stresses the need for food security.
Three officials from the capital city of Yinchuan have been suspended after the Monday report by CCTV revealed a 20-hectare field covered in layers of waste up to three metres thick, the Yinchuan government said on Thursday. The muck had accumulated over the course of eight years.
Food security has become a major concern globally as war rages in Ukraine and extreme-weather events induced by climate change intensify.
After dispatching dozens of vehicles to work around the clock, the Yinchuan government vowed to clear the site in four days and promised to reclaim the land after treatment of the area is completed. The rapid response followed fierce public criticism.
“Because of poor management, illegal disposal of waste has occurred,” the local government said – without specifying who did the dumping.
Formerly covered by crops, the area was seized by the government in 2018 after villagers were relocated. The space was a planned site for an industrial estate and railway route, but neither have made tangible progress.
A follow-up report from CCTV on Wednesday featured a local police officer who said it was the responsibility of the local urban management bureau to enforce rules on city sanitation and landscaping.
“We’re trying to use more equipment and clear the site as soon as possible,” He Ming, deputy mayor of Xingjing township, said during the broadcast. The dumping ground resides within his jurisdiction.
The accumulated waste matter is being carried to another parcel of land allocated for commercial development and will be moved to an authorised landfill later, he said.
Only a few days before the Yinchuan officials were busy making good on their promises, senior officials from nine other mainland cities were summoned to Beijing for a reprimand over their illegal use of agricultural acreage, in a meeting with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
In a public scolding on September 15, they were ordered to rectify more than 1,000 instances of malpractice, including constructing industrial buildings while claiming them as agricultural facilities and turning farmland into tourist attractions. The ministry shared the details of the session in a post on its website.
These localities were singled out as the worst offenders after a nationwide farmland-protection inspection tour by teams dispatched by the ministry between April and July.